Another Characterization of Cultural Catholicism from George Weigel’s “The Rise of Evangelical Catholicism”

Previously, we’ve dug into what “cultural Catholicism” might mean (I propose multiple definitions, some with positive implications, others with negative ones).

In “A New Take on Modern Catholic History,” George Weigel offers this characterization, that gets at the flavor and feel of cultural Catholicism:


…as recently as the 1950s in America…the ambient public culture helped transmit the faith, especially in intensely Catholic environments like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee and so forth.

He contrasts that with our culture today, noting:

…those days are long gone. The twenty-first-century cultural air is toxic, anti-biblical, Christophobic. It teaches the soul-withering notion that to do things “my way” is the summit of human aspiration and the very definition of maturity. And it regards those who hold firm to biblical religion and its moral teachings as idiots at best, irrational bigots at worst.

As Catholic Christians, called to be evangelizers in our world today, understanding these distinctions is not academic, or merely historical reflection. Reflecting on the practices in many of my parishes, I can see how, in many ways we do still act as if an “ambient” Catholic culture will compel people to worship, seek liturgical sacraments, and so forth. Assuming that what remains of this “ambient” culture will continue to lose influence, are we ready to boldly go forth in this changing cultural context?

Ss. Cyril and Methodius–Christ-filled evangelists, navigating a changing cultural context of their own–pray for us.


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